INDIANAPOLIS – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wants Marshawn Lynch to be his feature back. He made that clear on Wednesday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Gruden believes the 31-year old still has an ability to produce steadily, even with a high carry count. Lynch will get one if he's the Raiders feature back for a second straight season.
"Looking at the film and the game I broadcast on Christmas night (versus Philadelphia), there's no question he's still a beast that is hard to bring down," Gruden said. "One of the reasons I'm excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We'll see what happens."
Lynch is under contract through the 2018 season, with a $4 million base salary and another $2 million in roster and workout bonuses.
Gruden hedged his bets with Lynch a smidge, likely given the rusher's unpredictable nature. He could go back into retirement, though it is believed he wants to play next season. The Raiders might ask him to restructure his deal – nothing is certain on that front – and Lynch may balk at the idea.
General manager Reggie McKenzie considers Lynch one of several good players the Raiders want to keep. It is clear Gruden like Lynch's playing style, and has high hopes for him running in the new Raiders offense.
Gruden is known to value fullbacks – a rarity in modern NFL offenses – and praised incumbent Jamize Olawale. He wants one, and a quality blocking tight end – Lee Smith is an unrestricted free agent – to help his feature ball carrier.
"I would like to have a fullback. They're a dying breed in football, but I think it gives your running game a lot of deception. If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, it would be nice if we serviced him with a fullback…and you need a blocking tight end if you're going to slam the ball with a beast. Those are two things I'm looking for."
Gruden is also looking for Lynch to lead the rushing attack.
"We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I'm counting on him," Gruden said. "I'm counting on him being a big part of this football team."